The story of early 2010 is likely to read the same as 2009, with the ongoing economic crisis dominating the thoughts and actions of many people. Homeowners in particular are expected to struggle with deflated property prices, whilst many have already constructed extensions or had lofts and garages converted to meet demands for additional space.
As such, home improvements are likely to be somewhat understated, with attention turning to interior designs, of which Channel 4 Homes has selected five trends for 2010: folk style, big blooms, natural materials, retro or vintage and country house glamour.
Folk style is somewhat vintage in design and appeal, featuring animal and floral motifs which recently slipped out of favour. As mentioned in an earlier article, John Lewis has planned to bring such designs back into the homes of mainstream Britain during 2010 – and the folk style range of ‘Maisie’ duvet covers and pillowcases is a good example of the retailer’s ambitions. Other folk style items highlighted by Channel 4 Homes include an owl screen print (approximately £20) from Roddy & Ginger and a selection of velvet fruit and animal style cushions from Bhs (£14-£22).
The big blooms style features more striking designs, with large floral prints adorning bed sets from House of Fraser and colourful bowls, jars, bottles and saucers available from Bhs. Channel 4 Homes’ natural materials style is far more subtle in design, with the John Rocha kitchen set from Debenhams serving as a fine example of the trend. At the opposite end of the design spectrum, the retro or vintage style is exemplified by Cath Kidston’s daring Provence rose cereal bowls and cutlery. Meanwhile, the understated elegance of the country house glamour style is brought to life with House of Fraser’s living room selection, which comprises a pink lacquer floor lamp and polished side table among other decorative pieces.
The loft conversion is a home improvement task with which many homeowners and property developers will be all too familiar. Traditionally designed to create additional space, often for a home office or spare bedroom, a loft conversion is a relatively inexpensive way in which the value and usability of a property can be extended.
Moreover, if Government plans go ahead to retrofit all existing lofts with heat-saving measures under its Energy Saving Strategy (HES), which suggests that by 2015 all homes with cavity walls and standard lofts must be insulated to the highest standards and by 2030 even so-called “hard to treat homes” (old buildings, solid walls, etc.) must be improved, the loft conversion may no longer be an optional home improvement job.
Indeed, the HES consultation phase outlined potential carbon emission savings of approximately 44,000,000 tons annually through improvements to loft insulation, which is certainly no minor saving in the context of the international battle to reverse global warming. However, forcing homeowners to make such improvements is always going to be difficult in a logistical sense and it will be the case that many homeowners cannot afford to make the necessary changes, which is why the so-called ‘pay as you save’ loans have been suggested as a solution.
Whatever the mechanisms by which lofts are converted into eco-friendly rooms, it is clear there are advantages in improving their energy efficiency. Homeowners who are already looking into inexpensive ways to convert their “hard to treat” lofts whilst ensuring insulation is of a high standard will no doubt be interested to learn walls can be internally insulated to good effect and at a relatively low cost using 110mm Celotex rigid foam, which offers around double the insulation of traditional fibreglass boards. Celotex is approximately £21 per square metre, whilst TLX Silver (£11) and plywood panels can be used for doors and flooring.
The steady recovery of the UK housing market has been publicised recently. Indeed, as the nation’s economy slowly emerges from a recession that has hit almost every country in the developed world, it is only right homeowners and developers can look forward to the future with optimism. Thus, there is likely to be a rise in home improvements over the winter as homeowners prepare their properties for a healthier market.
Many such improvements will include building extensions, as these will add natural value to the home. However, creating space in a property can also offer a more immediate benefit.
A development such as a loft conversion, which will create the necessary space for a new bedroom in a property, can be rented out to lodgers to make quick cash for homeowners. In fact, until such a time as house prices have risen to affordable levels, the income generated by lodgers could not only pay off the cost of the extension but also provide an additional profit.
Moreover, taking in lodgers is no longer a social taboo among homeowners, who may have once considered the move a sign of desperation. On the contrary, those who advertise a portion of their home to lodgers are typically considered to be sensible business people who are merely attempting to maximise the value of their home.
Furthermore, the UK Government’s Rent-A-Room scheme will allow up to £4,250 per year to be generated by renting to lodgers before tax is payable. This offers a considerable incentive to homeowners who wish to make extra cash on their property, which could range from £10 to £70 per night based on the size of the room and location of the house.
Many homeowners and property developers who undertake home improvements will do so to raise property values. As the UK slowly emerges from the recent recession, dragging the housing market behind it, the average price of homes in the country is gradually returning to a more normal value.
Normal, in this sense, means a recovery from the past year of recession hit prices. Normal also means that many homeowners will be able to look at their homes as the investments they once were – likewise, property developers can begin to escape the relative lull that has forced numerous companies out of business.
Nevertheless, whilst the economy will ultimately determine the value at which a property can sell, there are many things that homeowners can do to increase its potential sale price. Extensions are among the most valuable of such improvements because these add real space, whilst typically adding several thousands of pounds worth of profit to a future sale. Installing a fitted bathroom or kitchen, insulating cavity walls and undertaking a loft conversion are also useful for generating more cash when the time comes to sell. However, not all such home improvements need to be major jobs.
Apart from adding a new room to a house, a prime mover of an early sale is creating a good first impression. This will invariably demand a spot of DIY and redecoration, as the first task would be to paint all the walls white in order to maximise the appearance of space and avoid negatively influencing a potential buyer’s interest in the property. Finally, it is essential to present a light and open hallway, as this will set the tone of a viewing.
It is common knowledge that the UK housing market is in a slump. As the recession deepens and the economy shows little sign of major recovery, home-owners and property developers are staying put until house prices increase.
Among these people, the more astute will realise that increasing the value of the property now can save hundreds and perhaps thousands of pounds in the future. Indeed, a loft conversion is a popular choice of extension generally because the work is usually fairly routine for experienced and professional builders.
However, those home-owners who are thinking of waiting until the new year before they begin their loft conversion should take note that, as things currently stand, the VAT that would be paid on building work and materials will revert to 17.5% on the 1st January 2010, whereas the current rate is just 15%. Whilst this may not seem like much, the savings would typically be around £150 to £300.
Obviously, the scale of the loft conversion will dictate the level of savings, but it is also important to remember that building materials and labour costs can be significantly reduced during a recession as firms become more competitive to stay afloat. On this note, it is always useful to source builders by word of mouth.
Nevertheless, a loft conversion will add valuable space to the home that will invariably add thousands of pounds on to its future sale price. Furthermore, in consideration of the fact that many home-owners are forced to remain in their properties until the housing market recovers, adding space to the home can breathe new life into living conditions. Indeed, whether it’s a study or a spare bedroom, a loft conversion can make all the difference.
Several prominent DIY experts and insurers have warned that the Easter holidays are a common time for people to take on home improvement projects which may be dangerous. These warnings come, after the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has confirmed that every year 200,000 people are injured due to preventable accidents which range from cut fingers to broken legs and electrical shocks.
DIY is, along with the traditional spring clean one of the activities many Brits will be getting up to this coming week. However, we should be cautious and take great care to avoid accidents. TV celebrity and home improvement expert, Handy Andy has always stressed the importance of working in a safe environment, saying: “Be safe. Make sure you wear gloves and protective goggles where necessary, and tie back long hair. If you start to get tired take a tea break, and don’t rush jobs.”
Other experts suggested that before you undertake a DIY loft conversion or tackle a new bedroom design it’s essential that you assess your insurance coverage first. If you had a serious accident which affected your home you may not be covered for damage which you, yourself have caused.
In fact, speaking in a ‘My Finances’ article M & S insurance manager Judith Roberts said: “Always make sure you plan well before attempting DIY and seek professional advice if necessary. Also check that your home insurance policy covers you for accidental damage and whether there is a limit to that cover.”
She added: “Easter is always a popular time of the year to get jobs done around the home. The current financial climate means that even more people will be having a go at DIY, either as an alternative to moving home or instead of employing a professional. But be careful: nearly one in five has had an accident doing-it-themselves in the past.”
The state of the British housing market – a further fall of 1% in the price of an average residential dwelling in January contributed to a fall of nearly 10% year-on-year according to recent figures – precludes moving home for many homeowners. Families grow, nevertheless, and the emphasis in the immediate future is likely to be on maximising the space available in, or adding space to, existing homes.
A garage conversion, for example – whether you choose a DIY approach or employ a specialist company to complete the work for you – can be an affordable way of adding living space, and value, to your home. You may, for example, want to create an extra bedroom, or a home office, or even a dedicated home cinema.
A loft conversion, similarly, can add an extra bedroom, or bathroom, or both, and anything up to 20% to the value of your property. If you are planning to sell your home when the market recovers, however, prospective buyers may find a permanent solution more attractive than a retractable loft ladder, and Velux® roof windows.
Bear in mind that older properties – built in the early Seventies or before – may require less structural work than newer properties and clearance of 7½’ is required for a ceiling at standard height. If headroom is an issue, dormer windows – gabled windows that extend above the height of the original roof – may be a possibility, subject to planning, building, and fire safety, regulations.
If you are in any doubt about planning permission, etc., contact your local planning office. If you are considering an extra bathroom in your loft spaceyou also need to consider the location of soil pipes and the capacity of your existing heating and hot water system.